Biotechnology for Biofuels focuses on the following areas:
Anaerobic digestion of waste
What is Anaerobic Digestion?
Anaerobic digestion is a method of breaking down organic matter, such as animal or food waste, to create biogas and biofertilizer. An anaerobic digester is a sealed, oxygen-free tank where this process takes place in the absence of oxygen.
Anaerobic digestion occurs naturally in some soils and sediments from lakes and ocean basins, where it is known as “anaerobic action.”
Alessandro Volta discovered this source of marsh gas methane in 1776.
Anaerobic digestion is one of the best strategies for food waste recycling and coping with agricultural waste and sewage sludge, according to the government, Defra, the Welsh Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, Friends of the Earth, and the National Farmers Union.
The term anaerobic literally means “without oxygen.” The biogas generated naturally in the sealed tanks is used as a fuel in a CHP unit to generate renewable energy, such as electricity and heat.
The result is a nutrient-rich biofertilizer that is pasteurized to destroy any bacteria before being stored in large covered tanks and applied twice a year to farmland in place of fossil-fuel-derived fertilizers.
One of the many advantages of anaerobic digestion is that it prevents between 0.5 and 1.0 ton of CO2 from entering the environment for every ton of food waste recycled as an alternative to landfill.
Bacterial and fungal/yeast genetics, physiology, and metabolic engineering
Biohydrogen and bioelectricity (fuel cells)
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) have recently received a lot of publicity due to their low operating temperatures and ability to use a variety of biodegradable substrates as fuel.
There are single chamber MFCs as well as conventional MFCs with anode and cathode compartments. Bioelectricities are generated when microorganisms actively catabolize substrate. MFCs can be used as a power source in small devices including biosensors.
Biological and chemical upgrading of biomass sugars, lignin and other biomass-derived intermediates
Production of hydrocarbon fuel from biomass‐derived lignin sources with current vision of biorefinery infrastructure would significantly improve the total carbon use in biomass and make biomass conversion more economically viable. Thus, developing specialty and commodity products from biomass derived‐lignin has been an important industrial and scientific endeavor for several decades.
Biomass pretreatment, fractionation, and extraction
Bioprocess integration, biohybrid processes and technoeconomic analysis
Integrated bioprocesses have been developed to optimise yield and cost-effectiveness of production of low and high molecular weight molecules. Low molecular weight products are removed from the cultivation medium with in situ extraction, in situ adsorption or crystallisation to avoid product inhibition.
Techno–economic assessment or techno–economic analysis (abbreviated TEA) is a method of analyzing the economic performance of an industrial process, product, or service. It typically uses software modeling to estimate capital cost, operating cost, and revenue based on technical and financial input parameters.
Cell free and immobilized enzyme processes
Development of terrestrial plant and algal feedstocks
Enzyme engineering, production, and analysis
Enzymes, also known as biocatalysts, are commonly used in a variety of industrial processes, especially in the production of bulk chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Enzyme engineering is the method of modifying an enzyme’s amino acid sequence in order to improve its performance or formulate a more advanced enzyme activity.
This technology has grown in popularity as a means of overcoming the limitations of native enzymes as biocatalysts. The two main methods in enzyme engineering are rational design and guided (molecular) evolution. To increase enzyme performance, genetic engineering techniques are commonly used.